As logistics becomes more complex and the global business landscape increases, moving more goods around the world and opening up new marketing opportunities, warehouse operations face new challenges. With these challenges, management faces tough decisions on the best strategic approach that will yield a way to break down these barriers and leverage the potential ahead. Here are five common warehouse challenges that can be overcome through specific approaches
- Redundant processes: Because so many people tend to touch materials, orders, and paperwork in a warehouse, the level of redundancy is much higher than in other aspects of business. Just in terms of a pick ticket, this can be passed through multiple hands, including a picker, checker, stager, loader and more. The best way to address this challenge is to add barcode technology, which automates more aspects of the warehousing process to reduce this redundancy.
- Inventory location and accuracy: Both of these challenges go hand in hand because inefficient location of inventory can adversely impact its accuracy. When a company doesn’t know what they have in-stock, problems arise, such as excess inventory that can reduce needed space, increase expenses, decrease cash flow and reduce customer service quality. Even worse is when there is inventory shortage and customers can’t get their orders. The solution again comes in the form of automation and barcoding to keep inventory location continually updated for the highest level of accuracy possible.
- Customer expectations: With the increased speed of information delivery and the need for instant gratification, customer psychology has changed with their expectations about their orders have gone through the roof. Besides the need for speed, other expectations are complete order and labeling accuracy. A complete warehouse management system, picking station computers and printers, barcodes and labeling equipment can all work toward meeting these high-level customer expectations.
- Rapid or uneven growth: Warehouses typically deal in seasonal products and ever-changing demands for certain items. This can lead to exceptional growth or periods of the year where growth is more noticeable. This unevenness creates a real challenge for a warehouse to determine how to add staff to address rapid growth or upgrade equipment to exploit this potential for greater revenue. Grow too fast and the warehouse cannot keep up with demand, tarnishing reputation and losing business. Again, a warehouse management system can track annual data and pinpoint where growth may occur in the future to improve the planning process. Further automation will alleviate confusion on the number of staff to hire that may later need to be let go during a slower period. This automation then provides a welcome relief for other areas of the business like HR and payroll.
- Space utilization: As products become more diverse or you take on more business, space becomes an issue. A warehouse layout that might have worked at one point is now inefficient, leading to unnecessary labor costs and an unproductive picking and shipping process. You don’t want to spend more time traveling to the inventory that sells the most so it would make sense to place this as close as possible while products that are ordered more infrequently can be stores in the back area. Also, you need to consider how racking and pallet patterns add or detract from productivity.
Addressing these challenges can lead to a smoother warehousing and logistics process, allowing you to take advantage of more business and helping you to expand into new areas. Plus, you will be able to lower costs and increase order accuracy.